Gillian Lester is Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law at Columbia Law School.
As Columbia Law’s 15th dean, she has led the faculty in recruiting nearly two dozen full-time professors, establishing six new law clinics, and strengthening and expanding the Law School’s intellectual and scholarly depth.
Through landmark investments in student financial aid and loan repayment assistance—and initiatives such as the Max Berger ’71 Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program—Dean Lester has dramatically expanded access to a Columbia legal education, as well as students’ ability to choose a career in the public interest. Under Dean Lester’s leadership, the Law School created a new Executive LL.M. in Global Business Law degree program and has undergone a transformation of its physical and digital campus infrastructure. In addition, she has spearheaded programs dedicated to lawyer-leadership, organizational character, science and technology policy, and constitutional democracy. Dean Lester has also guided the Law School in its successful five-year campaign to raise $300 million, which she launched in 2017.
Prior to joining Columbia in 2015, Dean Lester served on the faculty of the University of California, first at UCLA and later at Berkeley Law School, where she was interim dean from 2012 to 2014. Her scholarship focuses on income inequality, public finance policy, workplace law, and the design of social insurance laws and regulations. Dean Lester obtained a B.Sc. from the University of British Columbia, an LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and a J.S.D. from Stanford Law School.
Dean Lester is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Law Institute. She served on the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools from 2017 to 2020 and is a founding board member of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. For her service on the COVID-19 Task Force established by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger ’71, Dean Lester was recognized in 2022 with Columbia’s Nicholas Murray Butler Gold Medal for distinguished contributions in academic administration.
Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law (Oxford U. Press, 2018) (with Hugh Collins & Virginia Mantouvalou)
The book is an interdisciplinary investigation by lawyers and philosophers into the philosophical ideas, concepts, and principles that provide the foundation for the field of labour law or employment law. The book addresses doubts that have been expressed about whether a worker-protective labour law is needed at all, what should be regarded as the proper scope of the field in the light of developments such as the integration of work and home life by means of technology, the globalisation of the economy, and the precarious kinds of work that thrive in the gig economy.
Paying particular attention to political philosophy and theories of justice, the contributions focus on four themes:
I. Freedom, dignity, and human rights;
II. Distributive justice and exploitation;
III. Workplace democracy and self-determination;
IV. Social inclusion
- Employment Law Cases and Materials, (with Willborn, Schwab & Burton), LexisNexis, 2017, (6th edition)
- Family Security Insurance: A New Foundation for Economic Security, Workplace Flexibility, 2010, and Berkeley Center for Health, Economic and Family Security, 2010
- Jumping the Queue: An Inquiry into the Legal Treatment of Students with Disabilities, (with Mark Kelman), Harvard University Press, 1997
Articles and Chapters
- “Age Discrimination and Labour Law in the United States,” (Mia Ronnmar and Ann Numhauser-Henning eds.), Age Discrimination in Labour Law, Kluwer Law International, 2015
- “‘Keep Government Out of My Medicare’: The Search for Popular Support of Taxes and Social Spending,” (Michael Sherraden and Marion Crain eds.), Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility, Oxford University Press, 2013
- “Can Joe the Plumber Support Redistribution? Law, Social Preferences, and Sustainable Policy Design,” Tax Law Review, 2011
- “Beyond Collective Bargaining: Modern Unions and Social Solidarity,” (Brian Langille and Guy Davidov, eds.), The Idea of Labor Law, Cambridge University Press, 2011
- “Restrictive Covenants and Choice of Laws: An American Perspective,” Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, 2010
- “A Defense of Paid Family Leave,” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 2005
- “Unemployment Insurance and Wealth Redistribution,” UCLA Law Review, 2001
- “Restrictive Covenants, Employee Training, and the Limits of Transaction-Cost Analysis,” 76 Indiana Law Journal, 2001
- “Careers and Contingency,” Stanford Law Review, 1998
Remarks and Testimony
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2021
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2020
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2019
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2018
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2017
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2016
- Remarks of Dean Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Graduation 2015
- Dean Lester Tells Congress Immigration Order Should Be Rescinded